Christina Weaver and D’Qwell Jackson, a former NFL linebacker, call Washington, D.C., home, but for their wedding, they went for full-on fairy-tale in Tuscany, where they took their first vacation together. "Italy is where the magic happened for us,” says the bride. With a country set for their destination wedding, Christina and D'Qwell turned to Nathalie Cadet-James of Luxe Fête to recreate that magic—this time, for 95 of their closest friends and family.
The couple's vision started coming to life when they discovered Abbey San Galgano, a preserved church near Siena that was built between 1218 and 1288 by Cistercian monks. “It stands like a ghostly specter in an Italian field—truly an architectural marvel,” says the bride. "None of us could have expected it to be so breathtaking!” For the reception, they decided to switch locations, choosing the luxurious Belmond Villa San Michele in Fiesole, which features a facade designed by none other than Michelangelo.
And as if that wasn't epic enough, this happened: Prince Charles and Camilla were staying at the hotel at the same time! “It was unreal and certainly a nice beginning to our fairy-tale wedding,” says the bride. Keep reading to see how Christina and D'Qwell—with the help of Nathalie Cadet-James—created a beyond dreamy day in the Italian countryside for their April 8, 2017 wedding. (Seriously, where was our invite?!)
For her walk down the aisle, Christina donned a nude-hued, mermaid-style gown by Inbal Dror, which she fell hard for at Carine’s Bridal in Washington, D.C. "I always thought I'd wear white but I loved the unique color and sexy-yet-classy silhouette," she says. D’Qwell—who wore made-to-measure Tom Ford and custom Stubbs & Wooten driving slippers—gifted his bride a diamond tennis bracelet the morning of their nuptials, which she wore along with Jimmy Choo strappy sandals and vintage drop earrings.
The ceremony venue (Abbey San Galgano in Sienna) was a non-negotiable once Christina and D'Qwell saw it. “The sun beams were pouring in, and the acoustics made the coos from the birds sound like a melody,” says Christina. “It was a spiritual experience to say the least.”
“We wanted a clean, modern, simple look that would not compete with the natural beauty of our Italian backdrop,” says the bride. Christina always wanted an all-white wedding, and that’s what they created with minimal decor—think candles, ghost chairs, glass candelabras, and no flowers! “We designed it this way to allow the space to truly be transparent and unadulterated,” says Christina.
The bride walked down the aisle on the arm of her father as a string quartet played classic R&B hits.
At 3 p.m, as the birds were chirping and the sun was shining in, the bride and groom exchanged vows with their gorgeous venue as the backdrop. "It was a symbolic ceremony, but we did have some very close friends and mentors add a religious twist to it," Christina says.
After the couple’s celebratory ceremony exit, everyone headed to the waiting fleet of Mercedes-Benz Sprinters for the 90-minute ride (through the picturesque Italian countryside!) to the reception. “We treated each leg like a tour—with light lunches, sweet snacks, some wine, and great playlists in each vehicle," she says. "Everybody loved it!”
Still, things were timed so perfectly that everyone was in place at Belmont Villa San Michele in time to see the sun set (with cocktails in hand, of course). “The view alone explains why the world-famous painters are from Italy—just overwhelmingly beautiful and abound with inspiration," says the bride.
The night's seated dinner took place in the property’s loggia, which overlooks the city of Florence. Here, the decor was romantic and lush, with antique chandeliers covered in ivy and a garland of thousands of ranunculus lining the table.
Antique gold taper candles and a eucalyptus accent added personal touches to each place setting—as did the marble-looking name cards and letter pressed menus.
The couple's chocolate wedding cake incorporated marble and gold accents for a unique, modern take on the classic wedding cake.
The party turned up a few notches after dinner, when guests moved into a clear tent under the stars in the hotel’s main courtyard. Here, the all-white theme was continued and disco balls set the tone for an all-night dance party that lasted until 3 a.m. (Talk about a perfect ending to a perfectly-planned day!)
Looking back on her dream day, Christina says that she loved how her friends recognized their personalities in the tiny details of the big day. “They appreciated the personalized details far more than what kind of plates they ate on or the table linens we selected," she says. "Don't stress over the mundane decisions!"
Ceremony Venue: Abbey San Galgano || Reception Venue & Catering: Belmond Villa San Michele || Planner: Nathalie Cadet-James of Luxe Fête Event Planning and Design Studio || Bride’s Dress: Inbal Dror || Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo || Groom’s Attire: Tom Ford || Groom’s Shoes: Stubbs and Wooten || Hair & Makeup: Lara Navarrini || Floral Design & Rentals: Vincenzo Dascanio || Invitations & Paper Products: LetterHeads Miami || Engagement Ring & Wedding Band: T. Gluck & Co. || Tent: Le Coperture || Tour Operator: Art Viva || Favors: Connubivm || Photography: Lisa Poggi || Videography: Marco Caputo